Man and woman, existing sexes, marital love, parents and children, Christian family, complementarity of men and women, fathers and mothers

Male and female complementarity

Javier Vidal-Quadras

I remember, when my children were young, a friend, who only had daughters, saying to me, “From time to time, I will borrow some of your boys for my girls to know in a natural way the difference between men and women.” I am talking about very early ages, when children are still living what St. John Paul II would call their “original innocence.” 

I thought it was an ingenious way of introducing the reality of the sexual make-up of the human person. After all, the only way to understand the body of a man is through the body of a woman, and vice versa. 

Hypothesis of a single-sex humanity.

If we were to undertake the mental exercise of putting ourselves before the hypothesis of a single-sex humanity, the body of the human person would be incomprehensible. What is the point of a limb that hangs between the legs, which is delicate and uncomfortable and grows and shrinks inopportunely? Is it there to be an annoyance? 

Is it so complicated to excrete liquids from the body? Is there no other easy way? What is the sense of a humanity that is only female, to have an inner cavity, also delicate and hidden, subject to infection but with nothing to store in it? Or, equally, what is the sense of highly sensitive pectoral protuberances that must be protected from any blow, however slight?

It is evident, from a biological point of view, that a human body is meant for another and only in function of which does it take on a meaning. Only this “other”, complementary body, makes sense of one's own body. Additionally, it indicates a direction: a call to give oneself and welcome, to make oneself a gift to the other. The feminine and masculine bodies are designed to be united.

Union of body and spirit

Now, the human body is inseparably united with the spirit, the soul. The body is a reflection of what “is within”, an expression of an inner truth that is not seen, but which everyone knows exists; and that “is” has a reality that is uniquely identified with that body and in that body. If the body is an expression of the person, which is designed to give itself, so is the whole person - body and soul. Thus, there are those who choose to give themselves entirely to God and to others without giving their bodies to another person... but this is another matter.

Today, I want to focus on this man-woman union. First comes the union, then the fruit. It is true that each union, be it biologically infertile or fruitful, generates in itself multiple and varied fruits called to strengthen this “one-flesh union”: attraction, compenetration, delicacy, affection, understanding and much more.

The French philosopher, Fabrice Hadjadj explains that the child is not, should not be, the fruit of a direct intention, but rather, the fruit of the act of love between a man and a woman, which introduces a radical distinction that avoids the tendency of possession, of dominion over the child by the parents. The child is not the object of the love between the parents, but rather the gift, the gift that this love receives. It is best expressed by a man thus: “Son, the first person I loved was your mother, and it was this love that placed you in my hands.” 

A man does not love - should not love - a woman, and vice versa, because of the child. If this were so, the father and mother would become instruments, mere means of child-bearing and not subjects of love. The child, with good reason, would become a thought-out, decided and elaborated product, “...just one more piece of a device, one milestone of a project and not the unique event of the life that begins and exceeds us.”

Caring for love in marriage

For that reason, the classic advice of parents to their children intending to marry, “Have you thought of her as the mother of your children or as the father of your children?”, needs to be revised. It is good that intended spouses meet the conditions of being good mothers and fathers, but experience teaches that one fails more as a lover than as a parent. Very few people neglect their maternal and paternal love, but not a few end up neglecting and spoiling their marital love.

Therefore, the advice should be to think of her or him more as a companion and lover (in the proper sense of the word) for life rather than as a father or mother. And, when necessary, to entrust the care of your children through dedicating yourself preferably to him or her. Do not forget: your children are gifts that do not belong to you; they have come to the world to leave you; but your spouse is a gift that you do not deserve, which has come into your life to become your very life.

Original article in Spanish